The Glory of Self-Care

The short version: I use a ton of coconut oil and drop my stories.

The long version:

I think more people are talking about self-care these days, and making it a point to emphasize it with the realization that taking care of yourself means you perform better in every other aspect of your life. Mainstream acceptance may be a bit further behind the times, though I hear Google lets you take naps and bring your dogs to work, but I wonder what people actually do in terms of self-care. It’s easier to say “self-care is important” but perhaps a bit harder to scale back on stress or say no to people or events that aren’t aligning with what you truly want for yourself or in your best interest.

Also, as I just realized writing my first paragraph, self-care can easily be made into WORK! Anything that feels like a burdensome to-do list item doesn’t exact fit the bill of fun, relaxation, pleasure, contentment, or self-love. So, because it is my favorite day, Friday, I’ve made a list of my top self-care tips. And I’d love to hear from you what you do for self-care, so I can add it to the list!
MINDSET
1) Not feeling guilty for looking at pictures of baby animals on facebook. Most of the time I judge myself for being on facebook too much or trying to convince people that my viewpoint in life, politics, and social issues is right, without making it look like I’m trying to convince them (I’m also trying to add humor to every situation). BUT looking at those fuzzy little otter babies or seeing a lovely picture and quotation from Earthschool harmony brightens my mood. And it’s worth it, according to this TED talk.
2) Coloring my emotions. 
Resisting my emotions leads to a lot of compulsive behaviors – limiting beliefs, suffering from my thoughts, emotional eating, sometimes even depression and lack of communication with loved ones. So now I color my feelings, and share with my close family members and the self-love support network I’ve created (more on that in the self-love section, though all of this could be considered self-love, really).
3) Reading awesome books. 
Two books that are rocking my world right now are Loving What Is by Byron Katie and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Loving What Is teaches us the process of inquiry, also called The Work, which has helped me love reality, accept rather than judge, open up in my relationships, and enjoy the process of learning how to love myself more completely. (And dropping stories!). I’m not too far into A New Earth yet, but the biggest thing I have taken away so far is that your identity is not your thought, and the present moment and the earth we live in is actually pretty awesome.
4) Praying. 
A relatively new practice for me, I pray in the morning and before I eat. It’s a combination of gratitude and positive awareness.
5) Meditation
I use guided meditation once or twice a day, sometimes in the morning and usually before I fall asleep. I love anything by the Chopra Center for Meditation, and I read A Course in Miracles in the morning and throughout the day, especially for stress management.
What is the most kind and loving thing I can do for myself right now?
SOCIAL CONNECTION
6) Support Group
I’ve reached out to close friends and asked that they act as a support network when I am feeling depressed or down. I’ve sent out a list of questions and self-compassion practice tips for them to ask me when I come to them seeking advice, comfort, or needing to share something. Here’s an example of some questions:
1) What is the most kind and loving thing I can do for myself right now?
2) How is this an act of self-love?
3) Are you accepting or resisting?
Ok so I’ve actually reached out to just two people, but that is two people more than before. And I can ask 3 more people today!
7) Scheduled chats with family
I also have a weekly Skype date with my brother, my awesome health coach, and I call my Dad once a week to check in and catch up. I feel good when I talk to them, and I feel more anxious if I don’t.
8) Underscheduling & Play
I do less than I think I can do, so I have more time to exercise, read for pleasure, watch Crossfit videos on youtube, and play around doing things I loved in my childhood: puzzles, throwing frisbees, going to parks, making up games, board games, swimming etc. I know that having “me time” is important to my sanity, so I’m unapologetic about either wanting to be alone or having fun. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
And so I’m totally honest – I haven’t done anything from my play list in a long time. It’s a new focus after reading Your Personal Paleo Code. 
I love and approve of myself.
Prioritizing SELF LOVE
9) Self-love notecards
Thanks to Joe’s coaching (he has Free Coaching Fridays btw!), I have a group of index cards with affirmations, based on Louise Hay’s book, from a session we did. I don’t have them all memorized, but every time I see myself in a mirror I say the affirmation “I love and approve of myself”. It is very helpful when I am working out at the gym. Among other things, I feel like I squat better, and I notice how nice my butt looks.
10) Practical Self-Love ideas
- The ho’oponopono. This is based on “an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness” that I usually end up singing to myself. It is an easy way to actually practice forgiving myself, rather than thinking I should forgive myself or stressing that I’m not. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank You. I love you. It was particularly useful when I forgot to turn off the gas burner and scalded my nabe pot, ruining some delicious chicken feet & broth.
ho ohnopono
- The morning energy check. I heard this on a free session from Attract Your Soulmate. When you wake up in the morning, check your energy reserves. If you are at 75-100%, give freely. If you are at 50-75%, make sure to give and receive love. And if you are 50% or below, concentrate solely on receiving love that day, from yourself and others. This was really helpful when work was very stressful a few weeks ago.
Also, some helpful definitions of self-love from the same session,
  • Self-love is the realization that all we need is from within
  • Self-love means being just as compassionate with ourselves as we are with our loved ones, the people we love most.
  • Self-esteem is liking yourself for a certain reason. Self-love has no reason; it is unconditional.
 …and a few mantras:
  • I’m doing the best I can and it’s enough.
  • I only go as fast as the slowest part of me can go.
  • I’m learning and that’s ok.
FUN STUFF
I saved the best for last, because honestly who doesn’t love indulgences that make you feel good?
11) MASSAGE
I get a massage once a month. It is glorious. I used to feel guilty that I was getting massages and not using the money to donate to people who had no food, homes, etc. How does loving myself less help other people? I don’t know. So now I do both. I get an affordable massage that is within my budget, and I donate the same amount of money or more each month to causes I believe in. Problem solved – it’s not either/or but both.
12) HOMEMADE & REAL FOOD SPA CARE
I truly enjoy making my own home cleaning products and playing around with essential oils. I’ve learned much about home beauty care from the Skintervention Guide, and I love playing around with clay masks, deep oil cleansing, and all kinds of other natural skin care remedies. Others include:
- Morning ritual of hot or room temperature water with lemon: I hear it’s good for the liver and it brings out my inner yogi. But really I like it because it seems like fancy spa water. And I could spend some serious time at a spa.
- Using fermented cod liver oil beauty balm on my face. It smells, but that smell is baby soft skin in the making.
- Adding a few drops of essential oils to my humidifier, my toilet paper roll, and my laundry. I like eucalyptus or peppermint in my humidifier and citrus in my bathroom & laundry.
- Evening ritual of coconut oil on my skin & feet and essential oil blends to calm my mood and make me feel pampered. I place a glass of water on my nightstand so I have water ready for me right away in the morning.
12) STRETCHING
I ask myself frequently, why does stretching feel so good yet I fail to do it often? Probably because I make it feel like work and don’t concentrate on how much I enjoy it. I feel great when I stretch upon waking, before going to bed, and periodically at work. (In fact I just stood up in the middle of writing this because my butt was aching from sitting too long).
On my non-workout days, I work on mobility – stretching my shoulders to prepare for handstands, doing work with a tennis ball on knots in my back and feet, and the like. I feel accomplished in working towards my goal of pushups, handstands, and pullups, but I enjoy mobility practice so it never feels like work. I’ve taken a break from the more challenging yoga videos I do because it just felt like all effort and no fun, and I’ve gone back to the basics. I think of yoga now less as my daily workout and more of my daily routine of getting in touch with what my body needs in terms of movement and breathing meditation.
13) A CLEAN BATHTUB, HOT BATH, & BEESWAX CANDLES
Keeping my apartment clean & decluttered helps me relax. Hot baths once or twice a month force me to take it easy, though I still can’t sit still for more than 20 minutes. Beeswax candles will pretty much save the world, as long as we take care of our bees. (I’m exaggerating on the former but not on the latter!). I also find watering my plants to be meditative.
14) PLANTS & PETS
If someone around me had a rent-a-cat service, they would be making good money. If you have pets – love them for me please! If you don’t have pets, find friends that do (they’re like other people’s babies – you play with them when they are fun and then hand them back when they are miserable and hate you for not being their parent/have a gross diaper). If renting pets or babies is not an option, which is probably a good thing, at least start with some plants. Mine all have names, and I feel a little proud that they love me and depend on me.
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Finally, eating food (and reading awesome books about food like Eat the Yolks). I have a story that I eat instead of dealing with things. I also have a story that when I am stressed or depressed I don’t have an appetite. The result of my story attachment is that I don’t really listen to my body and I’m not intune with my needs. So I practice dropping the story and eating. It isn’t good or bad. I’m just eating. And I like eating :)
 SELF-CARE that I am committed to trying
15) Dry-Brushing: A good way to get the lymph flowing and hopefully add some youthful glow to my skin! Liz Wolfe explains all the benefits here. I’ve ordered a brush and I’m awaiting it’s faithful arrival from across an ocean.
16) Art Therapy: I brainstormed a project of creating a panel of four white boards that say  Kindness. Thougtfulness. Connection. Love. This is from the energy medicine work my brother does in his coaching. I loved art as a kid, but gave up because I thought I wasn’t good enough at it. So now I’m resolved to take my time and create something beautiful with some sort of typography and colored pencils. I believe I’ll enjoy it as much as the color-feelings.
17) Putting Love Into Food: by saying “I love you I love you I love you” every time I make food. I don’t usually remember how to do this, but I am a big believer that love is an essential ingredient to good food. And rather than just thinking that, I am going to say that to the food I am cooking. And also to my plants. I’ve been a little resentful that they need so much watering, especially when I want to travel. Hugo Strongleaf and Sir Walter Brimsley Ascott need an apology.
Inspiration from Chris Kresser, Liz Wolfe & the Skintervention Guide, Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness and our Self-Care facebook group, Paul Chek